How a year of misinformation formed Ukraine’s on-line battle narrative

On February 24, 2022, Russia begins a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, sparking a battle on the bottom, but additionally a web-based info battle. Since then, the JowharObservers workforce has uncovered 115 false info shared in photographs or movies on-line.

However what are the principle themes in these false narratives? What are the strategies used to mislead? This is a glance again at this year in pretend information.

Within the huge quantity of misinformation and disinformation that has unfold on the Web for the reason that starting of the battle in Ukraine, a number of fundamental narratives and methods stand out.

To raised perceive the way in which the pro-Russian and Ukrainian camps alternate misinformation on-line, the France 24 Observers workforce labored to catalog the allegations we debunked this yr. We debunked 115 allegations in 96 articles revealed between February 24, 2022 and February 24, 2023. Amongst them, 91 pretend information tales had been pro-Russian, whereas 17 articles had been pro-Ukraine.

Whereas this isn’t a complete or statistical research of the propaganda utilized by Kiev or Moscow, we had been in a position to get a greater concept of ​​the important thing narratives and methods either side use to advance their rhetoric. It must be famous that the JowharObservers workforce additionally offers with allegations that include a visible aspect – that’s, photographs or movies, not speeches by leaders.

Accusations of Nazism and demonization of pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian enemies typically gasoline very particular narratives when deceptive photographs are shared. These accounts publicize their imaginative and prescient of the battle effort and legitimize their combating.

Ten main narratives emerged over one yr of misinformation. The chart under reveals the frequency of pro-Russia (in blue) and pro-Ukraine (in black) disinformation.

Professional-Russian novels

Ukrainian “refugees” lined in Nazi tattoos, a Ukrainian basic sporting a “swastika” bracelet … 22 items of misinformation we noticed this yr had been speculated to be proof of the unfold of Nazi ideology in Ukraine. The narrative was typically used as a justification for the invasion. Vladimir Putin himself referred to as the invasion a “denazification” methodology.

One other matter we have seen loads accuses Ukraine and the West of “waging” the battle. In keeping with this account—which has appeared in 13 totally different articles we have written—pro-Russian accounts on-line have shared movies they declare are proof that the battle in Ukraine, or Russian atrocities just like the Butcha bloodbath, had been fiction. One other allegation mentioned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was filming his personal movies taken within the sq. in entrance of a inexperienced display.

Nonetheless, disinformation helped glorify the Russian military and inhabitants. This included displaying Russian army may with a hypersonic strike (though these movies had been made with particular results). Movies like this attempt to make others imagine that Russia is profitable the battle, so as to assist rally forces and acquire assist.

Different pro-Russian accounts handled Western involvement within the battle, claimed to doc anti-Ukrainian sentiment in Western nations and tried to discredit Zelensky as a frontrunner.

Professional-Ukrainian novels

Alternatively, pro-Ukrainian narratives have been sharing disinformation making an attempt to reinforce narratives that the Russian army is committing abuses in Ukraine. Others glorify the Ukrainian resistance or accuse Vladimir Putin of constructing state visits.

Photoshop jobs, photographs taken out of context, we additionally took a better take a look at how these narratives unfold throughout the Web. The methods utilized in disinformation primarily centered round photographs taken out of context – photographs or movies taken years earlier than the battle or shared with deceptive captions. Others are photographs comprised of scratch and photoshopped or graphically manipulated to point out one thing that wasn’t really there.

Greater than half of the allegations we debunked had been photographs taken out of context. Most had been photographs of actual occasions however had been introduced with a remark or declare that was deceptive. Others had been issues like online game footage or film clips that had been introduced as reasonable.

However we have additionally seen plenty of edited photographs and movies which have distorted the info, like these “anti-Russian posters” on Auschwitz focus camp photographs.

Lastly, among the misinformation spreading concerning the battle is definitely utilizing actual photographs and movies from the entrance line, however with captions that distort actuality, as within the case of this photograph that reportedly reveals a Ukrainian basic sporting a swastika bracelet.


This text relies on an evaluation of articles written by the France 24 Observers workforce in French between February 24, 2022, the date of the invasion of Ukraine, and February 24, 2023.

The JowharObservers workforce chooses the matters it covers based on the attain of the content material, the visible nature of the publications, and the curiosity of the topic in relation to present occasions.

Our editorial focus is on manipulative content material that features photographs, whether or not they’re photographs or movies. The Observer Group doesn’t cope with false or deceptive political statements.

In a single yr, our workforce wrote 96 articles coping with misinformation concerning the battle in Ukraine, investigating a complete of 115 totally different allegations.

The classes we used had been chosen on the idea of the observations of our workforce’s journalists, in addition to on the idea of discussions with numerous publicity specialists for our articles. Within the case of claims that match into multiple class, we selected the commonest class.

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